The Marcus & Jennifer Story

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As a college freshman, I was blinded and nearly killed after being struck by a drunk driver. Luckily, the crash took place just a short drive from the level 1 trauma center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. I will be the first to admit my memory of the crash, lying in the street and the E.R. are pretty sketchy. With every facial bone broken, both eyes damaged beyond repair, unthinkable oral trauma, not to mention all the injuries below the neck, those in the E.R. had no idea whether or not I had a traumatic brain injury. All except one, that is.

Jennifer was a 20 year old patient care tech working in the BJH E.R. that night. Throughout the night, my only real memory of the E.R. is Jennifer holding my hand and repeating, “I’m here, Marcus, I’m here…” Those two words gave so much comfort in my most raw, vulnerable state. Just to know that I wasn’t alone in a world turned upside down, inside out and then pounded down with a sledgehammer. Jennifer was there. She was with me. She would not let go of my hand. I was not alone.

The next morning, Jennifer’s shift ended and she left me in the trauma/surgical ICU with the words, “They’re going to take really good care of you, Marcus…” I squeezed her hand one last time. That was my last knowledge of Jennifer…for 20 years.

After two years of rehab, 300+ hours of reconstructive facial surgery and a multitude of life changes, I was finally able to accomplish my goals of returning to college and recapturing life. During my junior year at Missouri State University, I began speaking professionally.

In 2006, the Jennifer story first came to light with the release of my memoir, “After This…An Inspirational Journey For All The Wrong Reasons” and “The Other End Of The Stethoscope: 33 Insights For Excellent Patient Care.” In fact, the story of Jennifer’s words, “I’m here” are the first chapter of “Stetho” since simply being present for patients is the cornerstone of all caregiving.

In 2010 came the release of my third book, “I’M HERE: Compassionate Communication in Patient Care.” Again, the Jennifer story is the first of the book. Am I just too lazy to write a new chapter? Not at all! It’s just so freaking important it needs to be reiterated.

Fast forward to January 2013. I’ve just graduated from the M.S. in Narrative Medicine program from Columbia University in the city of New York. I’m anxious to incorporate my academic background into my lecture and personal story. Coincidentally, one of the first institutions to book me after the M.S. was complete was the very institution which saved my life: Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

While I’ve been telling the Jennifer story for over a decade, I hoped it would “hit home” with my audiences at BJH. Following a morning presentation, my contact approached and said, “Marcus, we’ve got a surprise for you…we found Jennifer.”

I.
Was.
Speechless.

For the first time in two decades, I was able to hold the hands that held mine…and to say thank you.

You can see the video clip of our reintroduction here:

Jennifer had no idea her words had helped found this career. She remembered that night, my name and knew I’d returned to college, but had no idea the Jennifer story has impacted, inspired and influenced hundreds of thousands of health care professionals nationwide.

Being reintroduced to Jennifer inspired the I’M HERE MOVEMENT; an effort to help health care professionals to understand they have the power to comfort patients by simply being present. The ultimate goal of the I’M HERE MOVEMENT is to inspire and influence every health care professional worldwide with the Jennifer story…and leave them with an I’M HERE wristband as a reminder of what a vital role they play simply by being present.

  1. Tom barnett :

    Great talk today in Wilmington. I will strive to incorporate your message in my practice of Surgery and trauma care. Thanks- also nice running into you, Cheryl and your assistant afterwards at the Iron Hill Brewery!

  2. Tom barnett :

    Great talk. I will strive to incorporate your thoughts and experience into my surgical and trauma care. Nice running into u at iron hill brewery afterwards.

  3. Teresa barter RNA, Christiana Care :

    Your talk at wilmington was truly inspirational. I heard you, my heart heard you. Thank you so very much for the telling you story. I have been changed.

  4. Ellarene Duis Sanders :

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. My dissertation research was on nursing presence and how it impacts both the patient and the nurse. This is so powerful to have confirmed by both Marcus’ and Jennifer’s experience on the night of his horrendous injury!

  5. Yandira Boreland :

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I had the pleasure to hear you speak at Goodwin College, your words touched me deeply and I will carry them with me throughout my career.

  6. I attended a conference last week and met Marcus. His story with Jennifer reiterates that age saying “little things matter” . Marcus thanks so much for sharing your story and creating this movement. Thanks too for letting the world know about Jennifer.

  7. Tia Young LPN USF HEALTH :

    I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. You have been such a blessing to the world of Healthcare. I will never forget this experience. Thank you!

  8. Kimberly Ross RCMA USF Health STC campus :

    Hello. I just wanted to thank you for your uplifting story you shared with us. It really touched my heart and also brought back memories of the tragedy my family went through when my at the time daughter was 12, and she is now 24. Your story is such a blessing and I hope this would help people all over the world when they hear your Story. Thanks to you again. Kimberly Ross

  9. Heather Clement- Nursing Student-University of Michigan-Flint :

    Hello, Thank you for sharing your story with us today. It did make a great impact on the type of nurse I want to be. You have a gift for public speaking and I enjoyed every minute. I look forward to reading your books and gaining a greater perspective. Thank you again!! Heather

  10. Ashleigh Patten :

    Your talk at the student nurse convention in Vicksburg, MS yesterday was one of the best things I’ve ever heard. It was such a powerful reminder of how much impact even seemingly small gestures make in a time when it’s so important to feel like a human and not just a room number. I don’t know if anyone told you that the audience was moved to stand after your talk.

  11. Marcus, you are an incredible inspiration. You shared your innermost experiences with us to help all caregivers be better and more engaged health care providers. Thank you. It was also such a pleasure meeting you. Keep spreading the word, it not only helps us be more caring providers, but it helps our patients have better healthcare experiences and outcomes.

  12. Angelica Fonseca :

    I am a student Nurse and I attended your convention today in San Diego. It was an awesome and eye opening experience. You are very inspirational you reminded me today that even the little things matter to the patient and most importantly that human interaction and compassion is very important. Keep spreading your message. I admire your strength and determination. Thank you very much for sharing such an important and inspirational message. God Bless you always.

  13. I worked at Tift Regional Medical Center 6 years, but long before that I was a patient in the ER victim of a wreck. I was out of my mind and in pain. I remember four people but one lady the most. I can’t remember her name and plan to look her up. My family who also works at hospital was not there yet and she came in to xray held my hand and when the tech said she had to leave she refused. I was dazed and confused but remember her holding my hand as I was strapped to a board and she refused to let go. Her words, “I am not going any where.” It matters. In the health care field things can get crazy and chaotic and that small above and beyond moment matters.

  14. Deborah Ventz-Migneco :

    Hi Marcus, as you had encouraged during your inspirational talk today at Newark Beth, I ran home and found your website, watched the video of you meeting Jennifer, and am proudly wearing my blue bracelet! It will be my constant reminder of your very powerful and uplifting message to us today, and to always be in the moment! It is my privilege to pass along your message to all who might need the gentle reminder as they work ever so hard to care for others and bring the human touch to each patient and their family members. Thank you for all that you have done thus far, for all who you have touched, and for being strong enough to follow your destiny! With high regard and best wishes, Deb Ventz-Migneco, Coaching Director, RWJBarnabas

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